Designs on Success
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a bastion of Southern elegance and aesthetic excellence, what with its renowned art and architecture programs, its turreted, redbrick campus and its collection of creative minds. All of which makes last week's hiring of former major league pitcher Luis Tiant—known more for his high-kick windup and tobacco-wadded cheek than for his post-Impressionist landscapes—as coach of the Bees' Division III baseball team, all the more startling.
Yet, is it any stranger than the hiring of Cazzie Russell, the former Michigan and NBA star who is in his second season of coaching the Savannah College basketball team? "People seem to think getting a big-name coach is so difficult," says Richard Rowan, the school's president since its founding 19 years ago. "Sometimes it's just a matter of asking. There's no reason to think a really good artist can't be a really good athlete. We want to be a first-class institution all the way around. So why not hire the coaches to do that?"
The Bees contacted Russell, who spent 12 years in the NBA, after Rowan saw a CNN report that chronicled Russell's work as a minister and high school basketball coach in Columbus, Ohio. "I'd heard of the school," says Russell, whose team was 13-5 at week's end, "but I didn't know much about it. I came down, looked around and realized there was something special here. It was a chance to coach in an academics-first environment, where nobody would be breathing down my neck to win in two years."
That same thought enticed Tiant, a 229-game winner during his 19-year major league career, who last year worked as an instructor in the Chicago White Sox system. Tiant never attended college, which was one reason he was drawn to the job. "I've seen how important education is," he says. "Athletes are great when they're playing, but trying to get a job afterward, it's always, Where did you go to school? Here, classwork is number one, personal development two, baseball three. I like that."
But Savannah College of Art and Design? A school at which a starting centerfielder's batting stroke might be no more important than his brush stroke? Rowan says the school combed through a list of more than 1,000 former major leaguers, seeking those who were interested in coaching in college. Russell, who was a finalist for the recent vacancy at his alma mater, knows lots of NBA vets who would love the chance as well.
Rowan is even talking about elevating SCAD to Division I. Good luck on that score. It's a private school with an enrollment of 3,500, hardly a foundation for the "very competitive" program Rowan envisions. But the college has made some surprising moves before, witness the acquisition of the two old pros.
"Maybe we're defying the definition of an arts and design school," Rowan says. "If that means succeeding in sports, I don't mind."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair made headlines last month when he welcomed Gerry Adams, the head of the IRA's political arm, Sinn Fein, to No. 10 Downing Street. Next month another historic meeting is set to take place in Phoenix, this one between a former British P.M. and a former leader of the Irish. Advertisements for Peter Lowe's Success 1998, a one-day business seminar scheduled for America West Arena, promise that among the speakers appearing "live and in person" will be Margaret Thatcher and Lou Holtz.